Name this child

Daily Reading for January 1 • The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ

A name is a holy place. The name is a womb that nourishes the one who bears it with all the love and hope mingled in the giving of the name. If not dictated by some angel, names are chosen carefully for saints or statesmen, prophets or poets, family doctors or relatives or places with wonderful sounds. Names are chosen with love in gratitude or by faith in potential or for hope of intercession. Names carry meanings within them, every year of life drawing out the meaning of the life of the named. . . .

A child always hears his name. Daily the name becomes more holy, said thousands of times in thousands of ways as the child grows and is checked by discipline, chastised, guided, given gifts with the letters of the name written on a tag. The names are prayers whispered in the night while tucking goosepimpled legs into warm blankets. The holy names preside over the greetings and the goodbyes and upon letters over a lifetime. The names are worked together like worry-beads, spoken through the nights of absence.

These holy names are familiar resting places upon a path of light. . . . But sooner or later, by the glow of light emanating from the beloved, you see in the shadows the contrasting figures of the unloved, watching. How can you pray the familiar words of the children illumined by the light of your own love without fumbling to form words for those with names unknown watching in the darkness?

Herod, seeking a child with a holy name, killed all the wrong children. Even now, nothing has changed. Even as I love my children day and night, and simply because I love them, I am aware of others unloved and unknown who seem capriciously born in the wrong place with the wrong name. Love is the most fragile of all blessings and the most anguished of all prayers. . . . A name is nothing but an empty word unless it is infused with love. The gulf between the named and the nameless will remain until all of us are called by the holy name, which is love.

From “The Holy Name” in Grace’s Window by Suzanne Guthrie. Copyright © 1996, 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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